Category: Ranch Life

THE BARNSTORMER AND THE BOY

THE BARNSTORMER AND THE BOY

In the little plane, just the pilot and me
up up up into the prairie air

Climbing and gliding and floating free
high above the county fair

The town looked small from way up there
but hell… it looked small from anywhere

It was the changing people into ants
that I loved the best and wanted again

Being on the wrong side of relative bigness
had been causing me a lot of pain

THE USELESS LAKE

THE USELESS LAKE

At the edge of our ranch
lay on a large and useless lake

True, it was pretty enough
when the sun struck it just right

And the alkali
didn’t seem to be a problem
for the seeming millions
of cormorants, gulls and pelicans
who embraced it for their home

There were even men
living along the south shore
who may have been happy
mining its salt for money

What I meant was
it was water
that the cows couldn’t drink

A BEAVER TALE

A BEAVER TALE

The ranch hands found him
half grown and half starved
wandering through the hills
five miles from any real water

Rolled him up in a leather jacket
threw him in the back of the jeep
brought him home and set him loose
in that big slough north of the barn

And what an architect he turned out to be
building his house with cedar post beams
and mud and straw and sticks for walls
larger and homier than a sodbuster’s cabin

A aquatics engineer as well
every inch of his domain cobwebbed
with small rivulets to larger streams
to little rivers all running to his castle

Spill a cup of coffee anywhere in twenty acres
and he could sip it in his home

Mighty impressive and a good neighbor too
until the dry years came

At the edge of the slough was a dugout
where the cattle watered spring and fall
and mostly in winter when we chopped
a hole through thick ice and the cattle’s
weight pushed water to the surface

The beaver needed water too
and he knew what to do
dig a hole through the soft dirt bank
and steal his water from our tank

I watched the surface a long patient time
to see the Vee of his swimming
to shining brown of his head
and fill it with lead

My brother held him up, large as a small man

Life on the ranch is very simple, as was I
what interferes with living has to die
as a city boy might swat a fly

Had they gotten to me then
I could have gone to war

AFTER THE CHRISTMAS PARTY

AFTER THE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Antifreeze or whisky
too much or too little
and you’re in trouble

This is the scene
that you would see
if the swirling snow
would let you

A young man
in an old Fork truck
heading West at
three miles an hour

Driver’s window open
arm extended full length

Mittened hand holding
twelve volt spotlight
beam groping the ridge
along the gravelled lane

Two feet from death on one side
ten on the other, and happy

CLOUD PLOWED FIELDS

CLOUD PLOWED FIELDS

I hear that line at an Austin open mic.
and I want it – actually I want it back
this is my line, how did he find it first

In any case – I hear the line, and Bam!
I am back in a cloud scudding sun baking
Saskatchewan summerfallow summer

Black lands between the glowing gold
John Deere with its hard iron hooves
ripping up the roots and seeds
of the flowers no-one wanted
call them weeds

Sometimes cutting worms in half
I hear that they grow back

While the little poet sits
by the caragana hedge
choking on the flowers
no-one wanted